Desperately Seeking Lusaka
Muslim Does Philly Security
3 AM and the journey begins. The kids, Guy and Shyanne, had been working until midnight and I got them up at 2:30 AM to come with me to the airport. I drove and Guy drove back home.
Of course, I couldn’t sleep that night either. So, I arrive at about 4: 20 for my 6am flight to NYC from Philly. It all started at security. They claimed I showed metal all over my body and they promptly did, well intrusive would be kind, examination of me. She checked everything. She did not even buy me a coffee. I have no secrets from her! I think the female attendant formerly worked in one of those women’s correction institute.
Then they discovered that I had lithium batteries with my camera and went on tilt. Got out the Ion scan to determine if they had touched any explosives. Then she said I had liquid in my bag—it was the 50 packets of Trader Joe's instant coffee. I explained that you had to add water—right now it was powdered. It was totally empty at Philly airport and I had pre-check status –it took nearly 40 minutes.
Next I am sitting at the gate drinking a cup of coffee thinking that I would be ok. When the woman from behind the desk said my carry-on was too big for this flight.???? I explained that I had lithium batteries and had to carry them with me. So, she told me to take the camera and batteries out and carry them by themselves. I explained there was no protection—she said, Oh Well.
Then she decided that I should put the camera in the suitcase and pack the batteries in my back pack. I thought ok so I will just pick it up on the deck and at last I could drink my coffee. So, they herded us onto a walk way and there was a set of stairs that we had to drag our suitcase down. Mine was so heavy that the one of the guys took pity on me when I was on the second to the bottom step. We were then squeezed into a tin can. I paid over $250 for this ticket to JFK and the plane was unbelievable.
We were sitting on each other. It took me five minutes to get my back pack with the infamous batteries under the seat in front of me. Ok on top of this the air host or whatever they are called took an instant dislike to me. He would come a tell me to push my seat forward even though I showed him that it was as far as possible. This plane was older than me and that is really saying something.
Then in the middle of the flight I was taking something to eat out of my back pack and he came to my seat and asked me what I was doing? I said I was getting something out of my back pack in the middle of the flight. He glared at me. The man sitting next to me started laughing. He told me, “This guy does not like you.” Well at least the flight in the sardine can was only 23 minutes.
They took everyone’s luggage so we thought we would be able to pick it up as we got off the plane. Well they took to another place and forced us to just stand there. Suddenly someone opened a door and there were all our suitcases thrown so tightly in the metal box that the strongest guys in the group had to drag out our luggage. Ok so you would think the whole ordeal was over, but not yet.
I grabbed my suitcase and the handle fell off in my hands—so I had to drag my suitcase to the carousels with my other suitcase. Guess where luggage redemption is—yes you have to take a bus to get there. So, I drug my broken suitcase onto the bus and we went to another terminal. Have I told you yet how much I hate JFK airport?
Ok, after dragging my suitcase to baggage, I took my suitcase off of the carousel and tried to drag everything to South African Airways ticket counter. I suddenly realized that my suitcase was useless. I had packed both another small bag and my camera bag in my other suitcase.
I sat down in front of South African Airways and repacked everything. I asked the women at the desk to watch my bags as I threw out the old suitcase. It was only 100 feet away, but as I returned to the ticket counter, three men in army fatigues came and said whose luggage is this. I told them it was mine. I was throwing away my suitcase and they watched it for me. He said never leave them alone. The women at the counter said they were watching them.
The good news is they did not drag me away so I could continue on my long journey. I had to carry the large video camera (it had been in the carry-on rolly) as well as my very heavy bag pack.
At first I was thinking how lucky I am that I got my knee done. I was racing through the terminal with almost no pain, but of course my plane was 20 gates away and by gate 8 it was getting heavy by gate 12 I had to sit down by gate 16 I was dragging that brand-new camera case.
I finally got to my gate, sat down and drank another cup of coffee. Like I wasn’t stressed enough. As we boarded the plane, I was trying to carry the camera case. The air host on South African Air took pity on me and carried to the overhead for me. I finally could sit down and get ready for 15 hours of flight.
On to South African Air. Lions and White Girls
This was a great plane since there were not many people on it. I was sitting across from a young woman from South Africa. She told me how educated white people no longer have opportunities in her country and are discriminated against. It was one of those moments where I had to repress an eye roll. She didn’t seem to understand that the fact she has a good education and home because of apartheid, but I just smiled. It is a long trip. She was very nice but really a little delusional.
The flight was long, but I was able to nap a little and watch an amazing film, “Lion”. It is about a young Indian boy who became lost in Calcutta and finally was adopted by an Australian couple. As an adult he searches and eventually finds his mother and the rest of his family. I was sitting there crying on the flight.
Johannesburg and Tambo Airport
We finally arrived in Johannesburg. My camera case had become an unbearable weight so I went to a duty-free shop and purchased one of those old wheelies things with bungie cords. Finally, I could drag the damn camera.
We had a wonderful breakfast at an airport coffee shop and leisurely started for our gate which was quite far away. Once we got to the gate we found that they had changed it to the gates near where we started and it was getting late. I decided to use the people mover thing—you know they have it in the airport-suspension belt that moves you faster. Well it does not start up until you step on it. (This is an important point to remember when I tell you what happened next.)
I decided to test my new knee and started moving quickly. I saw the people mover and decided to walk quickly on it. The one thing I did not know was that in South Africa the directions the mover is going is different than in the USA. So the people mover I thought would take me forward—actually was moving the other direction. Yes you guessed it I went flying . Two guys had to come and help me as I tried not to end up sucked into the machinery.
Thank God I was not seriously injured. Only my inflated view of my dignity. Since no one to my knowledge capture this digitally—I mean I am sincerely hopeful no one did—you have to put up with my stick figure drawings.
Finally we got on the flight to Lusaka. That will be the end of Blog #2
Lusaka coming up.